The Evolution of the Built Environment of Heritage Communities: Comparative Case Study of St. Jacobs and Creemore, Ontario
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Many rural communities utilize heritage resources as a tourism strategy to attract urban residents who desire the amenities found in historic communities. Current research finds that increased investment and popularity may cause these places to evolve through three phases (town-scape, heritage-scape and leisure-scape); a process referred to as creative destruction (Mitchell 1998). The purpose of this study is to determine if changes to the built form accompany this evolutionary sequence. A comparative analysis of two small Ontario communities at different stages of development (St. Jacobs and Creemore) is undertaken. Three objectives guide the research. The first objective is to assess the changes that have occurred to built form in a heritage-scape (Creemore) and leisure-scape (St. Jacobs) setting. To meet the first objective, three research methods, townscape assessment, individual building evaluation, and business survey are used. This study found that today, significantly more buildings have heritage value in Creemore, a heritage-scape, than in St. Jacobs, a leisure-scape. More new development that is not sensitive to the heritage character of the area has taken place in St. Jacobs than in Creemore. Therefore, heritage buildings are compromised as villages move through the stages of creative destruction and experience the conditions associated with the landscapes of heritage-scape and leisure-scape. During the landscape of heritage-scape, community members are aware of the heritage character and the importance of the historical built environment. Here, most business owners take initiatives to maintain and even enhance the built environment. The second objective is to understand the factors responsible for the identified heritage structure in each village. The role of the private sector, public and civic sectors is assessed to meet this objective. The study found that community involvement is integral to retaining the heritage character of the area and had tremendous impact on the conservation of heritage resources and the enhancement of the small town Ontario character. As important are the County and Township policies which define how and where the community will grow. Both the County and Township policies guiding land use in Creemore are more detailed and focused on heritage protection than are those pertaining to St. Jacobs. Both of these factors were stronger in Creemore, a heritage-scape than St. Jacobs, a leisure-scape. The final objective is to provide recommendations for future development on the assumption that both towns will continue to face growth pressures. The research offers five recommendations: strengthen policy and enhance its implementation, devise design guidelines and ensure documentation of resources, educate community members on heritage resources and ways to protect them, strengthen community ties to foster greater appreciation for heritage resources and the streetscape, and devise a balanced tourism strategy to maintain the resources that ultimately draw tourists to the villages.